Thursday, February 2, 2023 - 5:00pm
“All the world’s a stage: “performative allusion” in Heliodorus and beyond”
Somewhere in Lower Egypt, a local priest and an Ethiopian princess decide to re-enact a famous Homeric scene: Athena’s transformation of Odysseus into an old beggar. This episode from Heliodorus’s Aethiopica (fourth century c.e.)—a novel about race, unstable identities, sexual and religious purity—is an instance of what I propose to call “performative allusion”: Characters knowingly act out an intertext. Taking the Aethiopica as a starting point, my talk investigates the origins and comic potential of this phenomenon before proceeding to discuss its significance in an imperial Greek context: I shall explore what discourses of imitation, education, and cultural identity such cases of literary roleplay evoke—and how readers belonging to the rhetorically educated elite (pepaideumenoi) might have grappled with them. Performative allusions, I conclude, offer us a fresh perspective on the way Greeks under Rome reflected on their distinctly postclassical culture and obsession with paideia.
The talk will be preceded by a meet-and-greet over coffee at 4pm and followed by a reception. All are welcome.